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Del Bosque uncomfortable with favourites tag
Published : 30 Jun 2012 19:48:19Rss feed
Despite their status as reigning world and European champions, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque does not think his side will go into Sunday's Euro 2012 final with Italy as overwhelming favourites.
With fancied teams such as Germany and the Netherlands having already fallen by the wayside, Spain are the only pre-tournament favourites to have come close to meeting expectations in Poland and Ukraine.
Del Bosque can turn to a core of players from the triumphant campaigns at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, but he says Italy's renaissance under Cesare Prandelli has closed the gap between the teams.
"We cannot look back," he said at Saturday's pre-match press conference.
"We can't think that history influences anything. Italy have won the World Cup four times, we won it two years ago. Of course there is some history, but now me must look at the present.
"I think we've had similar tournaments. We've both had to win on penalties in our matches, we were both in the same group, and our style of play is similar.
"I don't think you can say there's a great difference between the teams."
Spain required penalties to overcome Portugal in the semi-finals, while Italy progressed to the last four following a penalty shoot-out victory over England in the quarter-finals.
After a group-stage exit at the last World Cup, Italy are rebuilding under Prandelli and they demonstrated how much progress they have made by holding Spain to a 1-1 draw in their opening Group C match on June 10.
The Italy coach sprang a surprise three weeks ago by lining his team up in a 3-5-2 formation, but he revealed in his pre-game press conference that he intends to revert to a conventional back four for Sunday's final.
Del Bosque, however, refused to provide clues about his starting line-up, merely stating: "We'll see during the training session now and the players who are best suited for the final will play."
Spain used Cesc Fabregas as a 'false nine' centre-forward in both the game with Italy and the 2-0 victory over France in the quarter-finals, but Del Bosque would not reveal whether he intends to repeat the experiment.
"We will play with three attackers," said the 61-year-old.
"There will be three men in the front line responsible for attacking. Their priorities will be more attacking than defensive, but every player has their own tasks and missions."
Del Bosque also dismissed suggestions that his team have stagnated, amid accusations that their renowned 'tiki-taka' passing style has become sterile.
"We can't stay in the last century," he said.
"Football is evolving. Of course there's been a change, and our players have also changed, but the nucleus of our team is the same.
"You can't say that we haven't tried to change anything and that we've remained the same team."
The former Real Madrid coach confirmed that stalwarts David Villa and Carles Puyol will attend the final at Kiev's Olympic Stadium after missing the tournament through injury.
"We are a great team, almost a family, and of course we missed both of them, for their personalities and their playing abilities," he said of the Barcelona pair.
"It's great they're coming here here so they can appreciate our hard work. They're on holiday here, they're recuperating from injuries, and we'll be very happy to see them."